I Won't Buy Broadcast Flag or Other Crippled Products

By Richard Menta 11/08/05

The audio module on one of my VCRs blew yesterday. I know because every time I record a show the video portion records fine, but the audio comes from the existing program I had taped over. My house is filled with used tapes. I have saved older programs on a few of them, but the rest are just copied over again and again. As I understand it this is how everyone else records broadcast entertainment, to time shift.

Time shifting, that concept that allowed the US Supreme Court to reverse a lower court order that declared the VCR an infringing device and home taping a criminal offense, is not just alive. It is an accurate representation of how we go about recording broadcast programming whether off of the TV or the radio.

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The VCR did not hurt the television and movie industries as claimed in the early 80's by media executives and their congressional lobbists. It eventually developed a new revenue stream that brought huge growth to both of them. The same with the cassette recorder and radio broadcasts. Record sales grew every single year from the 70's to the 90's when home cassette players were at their peak in the home.

On the few tapes where I have saved older shows for posterity I find advertisements selling tapes of the same program I had taped on my own. The difference is this is the official product, the "official" part implying value as a means to sell something one can acquire for free. Guess what? These official products sold extremely well in the pre-DVD era. DVDs of television programs sell even better, driving tremendous revenues despite the fact I can still record Desperate Housewives and the Gilmore Girls for free.

Now the movie, television and record industries want to again outlaw what the Supreme Court wisely deemed fair use back in the early 80's.

Anyway, I need to purchase a new VCR, which should run me a very reasonable $60 (or the cost the first season of some popular show). I can also purchase a recordable DVD, an idea that I am toying with despite the higher cost, because storage of recorded media is less intrusive. Anything I purchase today will allow me to do what I have done for years, record a show, watch it, then record over it. In a few years this may no longer be the case.

On the table are not one, but several bills sponsored by the movie, TV, and record industryies that look to outlaw home recording. The bills will require manufacturers to cripple these devices so I can no longer use them in a manner I am accustomed.

This crippling comes in many forms. One is broadcast flag, a signal positioned in the broadcast signal that will prevent equipped recorders from saving any program the producers of that show don't want you to record. The broadcast flag bills will require all recordable devices to have this technology if they wish to be sold in the US.

Likewise, the record industry wants to criminalize recording from satellite radio. You can still record the same song legally on broadcast radio, but somehow the record industry in its warped reasoning has deemed that satellite radio is different and therefore recording from that should be illegal without some copy restriction technology.

I will not buy any of these crippled devices should they appear. There is no value in such products for me.

First, I take offense in being called a pirate for performing a legal activity. Second, I'm not a sucker. If the record industry wants to force damaged goods on the populace they do so at their own risk, 'cause I ain't buying. If Microsoft wants to install code that prevents today's monitors and TVs from receiving future HD broadcasts tell the manufacturers they won't get my business on the new sets. I won't pay extra to cover overly-complex technology I don't want.

I suspect many others won't give them their business either.

If these laws manage to get passed by an media coddling Congress so be it. What it will create is an eBay black market of un-crippled VCR's and DVDs, some new, but most probably older pre-broadcast flag players that still function. There are millions of them, some still in the original box in households that already have several of them.

And if I never can record a television or radio broadcast again? The media conglomerates think I don't have a choice, but I do. I can walk away. I have done it before (I no longer have a cell phone) and I'll do it again. Paperbacks are cheap and plentiful. I also have a turntable and a large collection of vinyl that I need to re-acquaint myself with.

For now though, I have a choice. I think I'll just pick up that VCR while it still does everything I want it to do. Maybe, just to play it safe, I'll pick up two.

Other MP3 stories:
Can iTunes Resurrect Old Time TV?
iPod Killers for Christmas 2005 Part I
iPod Killers for Christmas 2005 Part II
iPod Killers for Christmas 2005 Part III

The 30GB iPod Video is available on Amazon

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